Thursday 28 February 2013

Do You Have Any Comments on Bell Cell Service in North Sault Area

I am interested in receiving feedback from anyone in the North Sault area about their experiences with the Bell cellular service in the area. I am particularly interested hearing about data hub broadband and smartphone services for items such as download speed and consistency.  Also, from anyone who switched from one service provider to another.

Either use the comment box below or send an e-mail to me at .


  1. I can't offer much - just to say that there does seem to be some cell phone coverage along Haviland / Marlette drive on 3G iPhone - almost all the way to the end of the road (@ 20km off the highway) which was not available a few months ago. Spotty but some decent signals off and on. Bell hub was getting a reasonable signal with external antenna on an initial test but speeds were really slow (could be several factors affecting this, as I'm on the fringe). I have not had a chance to really test it over a longer duration but I suspect that being far from the highway means I'm not in the Bell towers' optimal coverage area...?

  2. A user in the North Sault area reported good success with using a Bell compatible data stick along the Pine Shores Rd vicinity in Goulais River. They purchased the data stick at The Source in the Station Mall, SSM. Although The Source is owned by Bell, the user got a service package at a much better rate than dealing directly with a Bell outlet. It might be worth checking out.

    I am purposely not mentioning any specific rate package because these things are becoming more and more time sensitive as the competition to acquire new customers is heating up a head of the introduction of a consumers wireless code of conduct and the 700 MHz band auction, both expected later this year.

    It seems that new rate deals are being offered daily by one vendor or another. All seem to have different qualifying criteria, availability and offer time. If you are just entering the market, coming to the end of a contract, upgrading or wanting to change vendors, it can really pay off to shop around. As noted above, do not forget to check the re-sellers who in some cases represent more than one system operator and allow a greater comparison.

  3. Having moved to the North Sault area a little over 1 yr ago we opted to wait in expectation of 4G ph/internet service. We talked with Bell and Rodgers about future service. Bell Gave us the most compelling line of (fill in the blank), so we decided to wait for thier April 2012 promise. That of course slipped to May, June finally Oct 31 2012. We had 14 days in which to test out the Netgear hub either return it no obligation or keep it. As it turned out we couldnt get a signal. We are just north of Harmoney beach on the water, surrounded by rock and trees. Not to be detered I took the hub outside and moved it here and thier, including atop our old tv antenna, no service up thier. But found that close to the water and los in the general direction south we could get a signal. -113 sometimes -111/-109 noticeable improvements with just those differences. I put the hub in a plastic tupperware to withstand the elements and it has provided service since. At times we are not able to connect but usually it is ok ..... given our location Im ok with it. I bought a Yaggi but dont think it has been working, bad connector, came apart, occasional -79 signal but fleeting. Im gonna change the connector or build my own yaggi and see if it improves. Could be that the signal is just "shine" from the water so the yaggi may not help and those odd -79 signals where ghosts or whatever. Ah, we waited for the 4G service so that wifey could get a 4G ph. Aint happening, not strong enough for 4G ph signal. Could prbly get a booster for that to but she isnt likely reading this so.... cheers!

    1. Thanks for the interesting feedback. It has been a couple of decades since I have seen or heard someone describe reflections and multipaths as “shine.” I had an old operator working for me back in the 1970’s that used the term a lot when he was trying to set up a mobile microwave shot.

      I have advised numerous users that connector problems can be a real signal killer. I personally like to use commercial rubber booties, shrink wrap, or weather proof sealant tape depending on the situation. If the connectors are not protected I recommend they be cleaned with electrical contact cleaner biennially and check the connectors for tightness on an annual basis. (One needs to take due care to safety and caution if climbing or reaching is involved.) Also, the use of a good quality cable is an imperative. The standard RG6 type will work but I recommend a low loss LM200 or LM 400 cable. The extra cost is usually worth it.

      I like your jury rigged solution for weatherizing the data hub unit. An old trick to improve the signal is to stick a metal pie plate or a wire mesh a few inches behind the data hub unit and move it back and forth to see if the reception signal strength improves. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

      As to phones, I may be destroying your rationale for not getting a 3G/4G phone, but it not unusual for users to get a workable phone signal but not receive a workable data hub signal. It has to do with the design of the hardware and how the network access is set up at the cell site. There is even a significant difference between the brand of phones. Traditional Blackberry phones always seemed to work better than any other brand. I am not sure about the new models.

    2. Nigel I hope you continue to experiment a bit - seems like the only way to get this service to work at all for some of us out in the weeds is trial and error and some creativity. The plastic tupperware container idea is simple but very clever!

      FWIW I borrowed an old Yagi from a friend who used to have a bag phone on the old Bell cell service. Didn't have much luck with it, but the cable that came with it was pooched (one of the connectors actually pulled off when I was making some adjustments one day). I took the advice of the moderator here - I ordered a length of LMR400 cable with connectors pre-assembled at the factory - pretty reasonable cost and it is heavy duty and rock solid. I think it makes a big difference as this same old borrowed antenna can now pull in a usable signal from a Rogers tower at Batchawana @ 15 km away. It's not great, but it works. A couple pieces of old Radio Shack TV antenna mast with a chunk of galvanized fence post added got it up in the air. It's a dog's breakfast setup, but hey, it does the trick for now. I also want to try the wire mesh reflector trick mentioned here but have not had the time to pull the antenna down and mess with it.

      There's lots of room for improvement (if this is intended to be the solution for rural broadband internet). As you found out, its more hype than substance right now. I haven't had much luck getting a Bell hub to work even though the conditions seem to be actually a bit better (shorter distance to tower, fewer obstructions, etc.) so that may still be an ongoing experiment for me if time permits.

      Good luck - hope it works out for you.

    3. thanks for the information, I have a couple of additional bites of info I can add; About the 4Gph not working, from what I have learned due to our location being in the lee of the land and being "under the line of site" the 4g ph's dont work. If we walked 100yd's uphill we may get service but thats a maybe.
      As to the Yaggi, a connector was loose and finally came of, I am getting a new connector added, Motorolla in the Soo, they told me the cable is LMR200, I'll let you know how it works out. Another issue which may cause problems is heat from the lake, may distort our signal but thats for warmer days. Once it warms up a bit I may try the Yaggi atop our tv antenna. Anyways the hub is still parked by the shore and working.

  4. I recently upgraded to Koodo; no cellular service upper island lake south end. Will attempt moving around. Seems to kick in right around the gas station at the Heyden ski hill.

  5. This is consistent with the coverage shown on the Bell Mobility map:

    and the Koodo coverage map:

    The Island Lake area may very well receive coverage as a result of the Deferral Account project which is due for completion in Aug 2014. Unless Bell takes extraordinary action, there will likely be spill-over from the Deferral Account area into the general area. See the map at:

    Personally, I don't understand why Bell has not put a cell site on the Bellevue hill. This would add substantially coverage area.

  6. Thanks for the links. I agree with the Bellevue idea as well. Is there a limit to how many objects can be on the towers?

    1. You are welcome.

      Yes there are restrictions on how much "stuff" can be placed on a tower; each tower has a designed load limit. When the limit is exceeded, it is possible for a tower to collapse as happened on Manitoulin Island in March 2011 See the blog:

      Some major load factor considerations are the wind load, the ice/snow load and the total weight load. It is also necessary to consider the frequencies which may be in use by other vendors located on the tower and make sure there is no frequency interference at either the base frequencies or the harmonics.

      Sometimes it may be necessary to rehab or retrofit the tower to take additional equipment and hardware. Reports indicate that it took over $100K and nearly a year to retrofit the Bellevue tower for use by Tbaytel.

      Also, at a prime location like Bellevue hill, the property owner has a say as to what can be placed on the property.

    2. You are right; I have been up there biking and they have put in brand new footings for the support cables.

      In regards to service at Upper Island; moving down to the water I did in fact receive service, so there is some signal making it's way across.